Badgers down Hoosiers, return to Indiana to face Boilermakers
Ethan Happ led the way for the Badgers as they won their first true conference test of the season.Image By: Jessi Schoville
After No. 13 Wisconsin’s (2-0 Big Ten, 13-2 overall) 53-point victory over Florida A&M in late December, head coach Greg Gard candidly admitted that his team’s “mountain gets a lot steeper” as they enter conference play.
With two conference wins, including an impressive 75-68 victory over No. 25 Indiana (0-2, 10-5), the Badgers have successfully reached their first conference plateau.
Like any good climbers, the Badgers entered Bloomington, Ind., Tuesday evening prepared for the rough terrain they were set to face. When the 40-minute journey began, the Badgers looked sharp from the very first step.
They forced a turnover on the first possession of the game. Just over two minutes later, after two Hoosier turnovers and two 3-pointers from senior guard Bronson Koenig, Indiana head coach Tom Crean called a 30-second timeout, down 11 points, trying to stop his team’s bleeding.
The Badgers extended the lead by 14 with 16 minutes to go in the first half, but as the period progressed, Indiana slowly chipped away at Wisconsin’s lead.
Koenig led the Badgers with nine points in the first half but was limited to a mere eight minutes due to foul trouble. With Koenig off the floor, UW’s offense stagnated and the Badgers held a tiny 1-point lead going into the locker room.
Both teams traded baskets for much of the second half before a late 10-2 spurt by the Badgers helped UW retake control of the game.
Four straight free throws in the game’s final minute helped the Badgers knock off Indiana for IU’s third consecutive loss.
Sophomore forward Ethan Happ led the Badgers with 19 points and six rebounds, while Koenig chipped in 17 points of his own. The Badgers also received a scoring boost from senior guard Zak Showalter, who added 14 points.
The loss was just the latest defeat for the Hoosiers who, after a strong start in their non-conference schedule, have opened Big Ten play with back-to-back defeats.
With Tuesday’s victory, the Badgers have vaulted to the top of the Big Ten standings. But a sample size of only two games still puts UW far away from the peak of the Big Ten’s mountain-esque schedule.
The Badgers will have little time to rest after their first road conference victory, as they travel back to the state of Indiana Sunday, this time with a visit to No. 20 Purdue to face the Boilermakers.
Standings aside, Wisconsin’s climb is just beginning. Indiana was the Badgers’ first true conference test, but a win over Purdue Sunday would elevate UW to the next plateau.